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"Jay doesn't like to campaign," Freestone says. "He can't stand it. And you can see that he doesn't. Renz doesn't like to campaign, either. I, well, I can't say I always like it, but I try to make the best of it, to get out and meet the people and all."
@body:Tom Freestone is right. Renz Jennings probably would prefer not to campaign--particularly not against Turnbuckle Tom, the former pro wrestler. Jennings is a complex man, a farmer with a law degree, a politician with no apparent thirst for the tussle and jive of the game. He is reflective where Freestone is reflexive; he is mild and soft-spoken where Freestone is hale and boom-voiced. Jennings resembles the judge he once was, or a law professor, precise yet scattered. Freestone, however, still looks like a guy who enjoys setting up a good half nelson.
Frankly, Jennings doesn't think Freestone is qualified for the commission.
"You really ought to want to be a corporation commissioner to run for this office," Jennings says. "It's a complex office, and the decisions have lots of impact. You shouldn't get talked out--or bought out--of a race by a congressional candidate and then jump into this race. Tom Freestone had no great interest in utility regulation before May 1. Five days later, he announced for this office.
"His political problem is that he wanted to be a congressman," Jennings continues. "All his political life he's been doing favors. He's had access to the vast powers of pork. He's done all the natural things to end up as a congressman. To go from wanting to deal with issues like prayer in school, abortion and the line-item veto to setting rates on utilities is not a natural segue."
What Jennings does not say, but what is apparent, is that he regards Freestone's vigorous campaign as a personal affront. Jennings thinks his record on the commission merits his reelection. Utility rates have stabilized. No ratepayer is paying for the speculation or mismanagement of any utility executive. Jennings is satisfied that the commission is on track, and he fears that his opponent would bring a "county politics," wheeler-dealer mentality to the body.
So he's willing to go negative.
"I'm perfectly aware that if I live by the sword, I can die by the sword," Jennings says. "But I'm confident I'm clean."
And Tom Freestone accepts the battering he's taken as part of the process. He likens it to a football game--you know you're going to get hit; sometimes, you'll even take a cheap hit and the referee won't see it.
"The last three weeks of the race, that's when it really gets bloody," Freestone says. "It hurts, but you expect it."
Both Freestone and Jennings are ready for the race to end.
"We were both at a debate, and we both were just beat," Freestone says. "And right before the debate was about to start, Renz looked at me and said, 'Are you as tired of this as I am?'
"I had to laugh. Because I sure am tired of this.